THE Spanish police have arrested a gang that allegedly conned thousands of mobile users with SMS messages.
Spanish police say the gang made at least €5 million over the last decade from a premium-rate text messaging scam, according to El Pais newspaper.
A Guardia Civil unit dedicated to phone crime says it has arrested 11 people suspected of sending out hundreds of thousands of SMS and WhatsApp messages each month.
People received messages inviting a response, such as, “I’m writing to you from WhatsApp, let me know here if you are getting my messages,” or, “Get in touch with me about the second job interview.” Each time, it would cost the victim €1.50 when they replied, with the profit being shared with the mobile network operator.
“Some people would send a reply, realise it was a scam, and not fall for the trick again, but one guy, who believed he was flirting with a woman, ended up with a €2,000 phone bill,” said Oscar de la Cruz, head of the Police unit that busted the scammers.
How to avoid an SMS scam
- The simplest way to prevent unwittingly paying for a premium-rate SMS is by asking your network operator to block these types of numbers.
- Do not answer messages with numbers you do not recognise, particularly if they look unusual, for example if they have less than nine digits or begin with 79 or 25.
- Do not enter your phone number on suspicious websites, because you could be signing up to a premium-rate service.
- If you have been scammed, report the matter to your network operator, the relevant consumer bodies, and the Secretary of State for Telecommunications (SETSI).